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Denham Recycles Old Jeans Into New Pairs with Candiani

As we settle into the new year, our Sourcing Summit Companion Report looks ahead at ways to optimize processes and performance.

Old pairs of Denham are getting a second chance at life.

The Dutch denim brand debuted its first line of jeans made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) cotton sourced from previously worn Denham jeans. With fabric made of 21 percent recycled cotton, 65 percent organic cotton and 14 percent conventional cotton, the jeans are considered to be the brand’s most sustainable yet.

The line is two years in the making. In 2019, Denham launched the “Bring Back Your Denham Jeans” initiative calling on consumers to do just that. Customers brought in hundreds of their used Denham jeans, from which the highest-quality fibers were woven into new yarns to make new denim. The remainder was recycled into wall and sound insulation.

From the pre-owned jeans, the brand and longstanding mill partner Candiani Denim were able to produce 874 yards of fabric, or about 300 pairs of jeans.

The PCR cotton denim range centers on just one style of jean—the brand’s bestselling Razor slim fit—available in PCR selvedge virgin denim and PCR selvedge repair denim in a medium vintage wash.

The range underscores the brand’s 10-year partnership with Candiani, throughout which it has launched a number of high-quality lines such as The Originals, a 32-piece collection of men’s jeans also centered on the Razor fit in a series of washes. The partnership also focused on sustainable initiatives like Candiani’s Coreva stretch fabric, a biodegradable alternative to plastic-based stretch denim. In 2019, Denham was the first brand to debut the technology, before others like Stella McCartney and Triarchy followed suit.

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Circularity has been the theme of the year, with a recent uptick in related initiatives in the past several months. Most recently, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation debuted its new book, “Circular Design for Fashion,” which sets out the fundamental principles of circular design and outlines the ways in which creatives can implement its principles. The book sets out to make the concept of circularity more accessible and scalable, with insight from luxury brands, independent labels and mass-market players alike. Asos and H&M also debuted their findings in the form of guidebooks for the fashion industry’s use.

Research firm McKinsey & Company’s latest State of Fashion report recently underscored the need for brands to get onboard with circularity, as it noted that less than 1 percent of cotton was recycled in 2020.

While many brands such as Levi’s and Diesel have ventured into the resale space to extend the life of their denim, recycling jeans into PCR cotton fiber offers companies a different route to circularity. Fellow Dutch denim brand Mud Jeans sets a precedent for circularity with its recycling program, which sees that each pair of jeans returned to the brand receives a second life, whether they’re repaired and resold or sent to be recycled. Recently, it embarked on its own journey toward a 100 percent recycled jean, which is showing signs of progress. In August, the brand and partners developed a 30-square-centimeter swatch in a laboratory that’s currently being tested and scaled.

Denham’s PCR selvedge virgin denim jean is available for $259 (230 euros) and the PCR selvedge repair denim jean is available for $338 (300 euros) in stores and on the Denham website. Men’s sizes range from 27-40 waist and 30-34 length.